Curbing conflict this year
Tough policy on militants, separatists in Kashmir, and also a reach-out. Rajnish Singh recounts 2017 in retrospect
Concerted action against militants and appointment of an interlocutor to carry forward the dialogue process were key aspects of Centre's policy on Jammu and Kashmir in the past year as it sought to expose the narrative of the separatists through a crackdown on their flow of funds from the "neighbouring country" to finance unrest in the state.
The year also saw the Home Ministry dealing with the issue of Rohingyas, repeated ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir, and also Maoist violence in some parts of the country. A total of 203 militants were killed in Jammu and Kashmir in till December 10 - the highest in the past seven years -- as part of Centre's "tough" strategy to root out militancy from the trouble-torn Valley.
Those killed included some top militant commanders such as Lashkar-e-Taiba's Bashir Ahmad Wani, Abu Dujana, and Junaid Mattoo, and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen's Sabzar Ahmad Bhat. The security forces had a hard time last year in dealing with incidents of stone-pelting following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
The incidents of coordinated stone-pelting came down drastically this year and have been attributed to action by the security forces against militant groups as also probes by National Investigating Agency (NIA) into "terror funding".
The arrests of separatist leaders and others by NIA were preceded by efforts to obtain information through improved intelligence. The government has also made efforts to wean away youth from the influence of separatists by taking steps to boost investment and employment in the state.
As part of its ongoing probe in the terror-funding cases, NIA seized nearly Rs 36.5 crore in demonetised currency in November. The government has said its policy to restore peace and normalcy in Kashmir has focus on five Cs -- "compassion, communication, co-existence, confidence-building and consistency".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the Valley in his August 15 Independence Day speech from New Delhi's Red Fort and said Kashmir's problems can be solved only by embracing its people, not with bullets or abuses.
As part of efforts to address the sense of alienation and improve infrastructure in the sensitive border state, the Modi government released funds under its Rs 80,000 crore (over $12 billion) package for the state announced in 2015. Home Minister Rajnath Singh made five visits to Kashmir during the year and emphasised that the government was willing to talk to anyone in the state.
In October, the government appointed Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief, as its special representative to "initiate and carry forward a dialogue with elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals in the State of Jammu and Kashmir".
One of Sharma's objectives apparently is to deal with and contain radicalisation among the youth in the state. Pakistan resorted to repeated ceasefire violations and the Home Ministry gave clear instructions to the Border Security Force (BSF) "not to count bullets and give befitting reply".
Around 900 ceasefire violations -- the highest in a decade -- were committed by Pakistani forces both along the Line of Control and the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir till December 10. The firing caused some injuries to the civilians and disrupted their lives. The terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir included one on Amarnath pilgrims on July 10 in which seven persons were killed.
Ambush by Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district in April, in which 25 Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) troopers were killed, reflected the continued challenges faced by the Home Ministry in containing violence by Left Wing extremists.
The ministry also made efforts to provide succour to people in over 19 incidents of natural disasters including Cyclone Ockhi. The Home Ministry rejected demands for giving concessions to Rohingyas, who faced violence in their settlements in Myanmar, and made it clear that those who have come into India were illegal immigrants and need to be deported back. Around 22,000 Rohingyas are estimated to be living in various parts of India.
The Home Ministry held meetings with Chief Ministers of states bordering Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh which were aimed at enhancing border security and curbing illegal immigration, drug peddling, fake currency, and human trafficking.
In a major initiative, the Home Ministry approved a Rs 25,000-crore outlay for upgrading the internal security apparatus in states under an umbrella scheme on modernisation of police forces.
The unease in the relationship with Pakistan also got reflected in the number of visas issued. Against 52,525 visas issued to Pakistan nationals in 2016, 34,445 were issued in 2017. However, the number of visas issued to Bangladeshi nationals increased to 12,89,332 compared to 9,33,695 in 2016.
The ministry also stepped up efforts to integrate various organs of the criminal justice system such as the police, courts, prisons, prosecution, forensic laboratories, fingerprints and juvenile homes with the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) database. Intelligence estimates have put the number of Indians who had gone to fight for the terror group Islamic State after their radicalisation at 30. The ministry kept a strict tab on the reports about online radicalisation of youth by the Islamic State.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)